Guide to foraging - what to pick, wild recipe ideas and more
Have you ever fancied trying out foraging? Here are some tips and guidelines to do so safely.
For those of you who aren’t perhaps familiar with the term, foraging is picking wild foods in nature to eat directly or cook with. In fact, here at Highland Boundary we forage for the natural ingredients that form the wild flavours of our botanical spirits. It opens a whole new palette of flavour possibilities and it is much more fun than traipsing a trolley around the supermarket!
However, where some people can get a little confused or daunted is the rules around foraging and what is safe to pick. So, we are sharing some fundamental guidelines on foraging, safe foods to pick and some tasty recipe ideas that you can try at home.
Beginner’s Guide to Foraging
Let’s start with some basic guidelines to keep you safe and make the most of your first forage.
- Foraging is legal in the UK’s public outdoor spaces, however you cannot forage on private grounds without permission.
- Be considerate not to over forage. The last thing you want to do is to disrupt the natural development of the plants and species in your local area by taking too much too often. Leave some for the wildlife!
- Only eat foods that you are certain to be safe. If you are in any doubt then don’t pick and be sure to research before eating.
- Avoid picking from areas open to high pollution like roadsides and urban areas as it may be contaminated.
Safe Foods to Forage
Here are some safe foods to forage that you’ll likely find in the rural lands of the UK.
One of the bonuses to picking wild garlic is that you can often smell it before you see it! Pick the young leaves in Spring and season a range of dishes. You can add to a salad, use to create a wild garlic sauce or butter over fish or chicken. The options are endless!
These dainty white flowers pack a light floral flavour perfect for summer dining. They can be picked at the end of Spring into early Summer and again have many uses. At Highland Boundary we pair the sweetness of elderflower with birch to create a smooth spirit. However, you can use elderflower in jam, cordial, cake and much more. Elderberries are another fantastic foraged find when they bloom in the autumn. They have a tart taste ideal for condiments, pastries to name a few.
Find out more about elderflower uses, mythology and more in our Essence of Elderflower blog.
In the summer months you’ll find a whole range of berries in bloom. From wild raspberries and blackberries, to gooseberries and blueberries. Use in a fruit salad, for summer smoothies, in cakes and of course to garnish a Friday evening tipple.
Other berries that you can pick include sloe berries, rosehips, strawberries, blackcurrants and more.
Spruce up a salad with a pop of colour by adding violets into the mix. The flowers, leaves and stem are safe to eat and don’t have an overly powerful taste although the petals do have a sweet kick.
Wild nuts are a fantastic source of protein and energy. Hazelnuts are easy to pick although they are most commonly found in thick rural land and once you have harvested them they have a lengthy shelf life. Acorns are another great choice. Remove the cap and shell before eating. You can eat raw or roast and use in a salad.
Other nuts that are safe to forage include chestnuts, beech nuts, pine nuts,
Common chickweeds are possibly one of the easiest greens to forage as they are found in most woodlands and countryside landscapes. Often dismissed as a weed, the chickweed leaves and stems can be eaten raw and are high in potassium and calcium. Add to salads, pastas, stews and more.
The chances are that you won’t have to venture too far to come across dandelions. Perhaps even as close as your back garden! The leaves boast an earthy taste and can be used in salads, as a herb garnish and soup. Be sure to harvest the leaves when young, before the flowers bloom. The flower heads themselves can also be served up in pastas and even cordials and wines with their light sweet taste.